“Mohana Punnagai Seidhidum” – Vanangamudi (1957) – Tamil Feature Film

Faded Into Oblivion Series (3)

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Faded Into Oblivion Series by Vicky Iyengar is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.


(Vanangamudi 1957) – “Mohana Punnagai Seidhidum” ; Composed by Gopalsamy Ramanatha Iyer (G Ramanathan), Voice: P Susheela & T M Soundararajan – Vivid Creation of a Tranquil Soundscape!


Remembered for the excellent performances by Sivaji Ganesan, Savithri & Nambiar including a stellar score by G Ramanathan, Directed by the veteran P. Pullaiah (earlier was associated with Dada Saheb Phalke) and Produced by Saravanabhava-Unity Pictures, “Vananagamudi” was huge Box Office success when it was released on April 12, 1957. The star cast included Sivaji Ganesan, Savithri, Kannamba, M K Radha, M N Nambiar, K A Thangavelu, Chithoor V. Nagiah, Rajasulochana & M Saroja. Story and Screenplay was handled by Director Pulliah with the dialogues written by A K Velan. The famous Nattuvanar K. N Dandayudhapani Pillai (sizzling Dance number by Helen) was in charge of Choreography and P Ramaswamy handled the Cinematography. The highlight of the movie was its Soundtrack ably composed by G Ramanatha Iyer with support from the acclaimed Lyricist Thanjai N Ramiah Doss.


The film revolves around a king (M. K. Radha) and a talented sculptor (Sivaji Ganesan). Chitrashilpi, the sculptor, could make stones sing and dance with his artistic touch. Son of the king’s bodyguard (Nagaiah), whose kind-hearted wife is played by Kannamba, he meets the princess (Savitri) in a forest and falls in love with her. However, each is not aware of the other’s identity. Nambiar who has an eye on the throne and the princess. He has a kind-hearted concubine — a court dancer (Rajasulochana) and employs all the tricks in his bag to get his desire fulfilled. He throws the sculptor in prison and introduces a princess-look-alike, a tribal girl (Savitri, again) and pulls the wool over the eyes of the king and marries the fake princess! How happiness is restored in the royal family forms the rest of the plot.


Hailing from Nellore and Winner (both Pulliah & P Susheela) of Raghupathi Venkaiah Award (For Lifetime Contribution to Telugu Cinema) P. Pullaih, was an acclaimed Director in both Tamil & Telugu (35 Films). He was also married to veteran actress P. Shanthakumari and produced movies under the Banner “Padmasree Pictures”. He was remembered for the Magnum Opus movie “Sri Venkateswara Mahathmyam” (1960) which was directed by him. Many of his films were huge hits (Dharmapatni -1941), (Maya Machindra – 1945), (Macha Rekhai – 1950), (Dharma Devata – 1952), (Manampola Mangalyam – 1953), (Rechukkka – 1953), (Kanya Sulkam -1955), (Ardhangi – 1955), (Pennin Perumai – 1956), (Illarame Nallaram – 1958), (Jayabheri – 1959), (Murali Krishna – 1964) to name a few. Mahanati Savithri & Sivaji Ganesan needs no introduction and played their parts well.


Considered the “The Founding Father of Tamil Film Melodies”, Gopalsamy Ramanatha Iyer gave shape to the celebrated early melodies in Tamil Cinema – “Manmadha Leelai”, Dheena Karunakarane”, “Vasantha Ruthu Manamohaname”, “Krishna Mukunda Murare”, Perinbame Vaazhvile”, “Ulavum Thendral”, Vaarai Nee Vaarai”, “Kaadhalaginen”, “Adhirshtam”, “Karpanai Kanvinile”, “Ketpadhellam Kadhal Geethangale”, “Yaanai Dhantham Pole” to name a few.


The discography is filled with voices of well-known singers of that era such as M. L. Vasanthakumari, Jikki, P. Leela, T. M. Soundararajan, Sirgazhi Govindarajan, A. M. Raja, T. V. Ratnam, S. C. Krishnan and our own P Susheela lent their voices to the songs. The title song “Rajayogame” (P Susheela), “Malaiye Un Nilai” ( Sirkazhi Govindarajan), “Pattum Bharathamum” (T M Soundararajan), “Ennai Pol Pennalavo” (P Susheela), “Siramathil Thigazhvathu ( M L Vasanthakumari), “Kattazhagu Mama” (P Leela), “Mohana Punnagai” (P Susheela , T M Soundararajan), “Aatchiyin” (Sirkazhi Govindarajan), “Kumukukumma Goyya” – Filmed on Helen” (Jikki Krishnaveni), “Vazhvinile Vazhvinile” (A M Raja, P Susheela), “Eeraindhu Madhame” ( T M Soundararajan).


In this flick, Susheela had the opportunity to contribute 4 songs for Mahanati (2 Duets and 2 Solos). All the mentioned songs by Susheela were huge hits and quite popular. The saying goes – “Its like finishing a fulfilling dinner with “Cognac”. Well, I am referring to a masterpiece/hidden gem of composer G Ramanatha Iyer which has faded past into our memories. “Mohana Punnagai Seidhidum” was a highly colorful and aromatic piece suited to popular taste of that era.  Not a single bar of music is borrowed. It is a priceless heritage of G Ramanatha Iyer (GR) and Susheela. If one is destined to devote most of one’s life to playback singing, one can start in no better way than by being born with the beautiful voice of Susheelamma, with her clear connotations of singing. It is not the compelling music of GR that elevates the song, but, the always dutiful and mesmerizing voice of Susheelamma. T M Sounderajan also plays a secondary role in this creative attempt lending a hand to GR thereby creating a tranquil soundscape.


Mohana punnagai seidhidum nilavae
maegathilae nee maraiyaadhae
paagudan thaenumae kalandhidum naeram
saahasamae nee puriyaadhae
மோகன புன்னகை செய்திடும் நிலவே
மேகத்திலே நீ மறையாதே
பாகுடன் தேனுமே கலந்திடும் நேரம்
சாஹசமே நீ புரியாதே

To me this is a dialogue song of the responsorial type, like “Bailero”, a french folk song of Marie-Joseph Canteloube. In the early era of film making, no one has cared so passionately than GR in infusing classical raw material into his orchestral works. That’s his genius. His melodies (to name a few…Kanvazhi Pugundhu, Ulavum Thendral Katrinilae, Thensuvai Mevum [a piano interlude in between], Ullam Rendum Ondru, Manamohana) cannot be quantified by complex metrics, but rather they are contemporary fluid pieces with strong regular rhythmic patterns. Intelligently sung with considerable artistry – it defies categorization. How did he do that? Enough now of GR’s musical achievements.

The opening lyrical phrase was scored with a perfect traditional balance of woodwind (flute), strings and percussion engulfed in a slowest tempo, I was stunned by the vocal technique of Susheela – the way she employs a equal harmonic restraint in “பாகுடன் தேனுமே கலந்திடும் நேரம் சாஹசமே நீ புரியாதே” and conveys a mood of joyful insouciance. However, the middle section of the composition is kept quite simple. GR’s playful woodwind exoticism also has a conservative touch, not to parallel his earlier masterpieces since 1940’s. This collaboration comes from an era when artists gave their all, where they stood and delivered the vocal end of the equation – climatic in a way that stirred emotions from the most-organic spots in the human psyche.


thyaagamum yogamum saerndhadhanalae
thenralae neeyum piriyaadhae
thyaagamum yogamum saerndhadhanalae
thenralae neeyum piriyaadhae
thaen malar thoovum naeramidhae
en selvamae neeyum maraiyaadhae
thaen malar thoovum naeramidhae
en selvamae neeyum maraiyaadhae
தியாகமும் யோகமும் செர்ந்ததனலே
தென்றலே நீயும் பிரியாதே
தியாகமும் யோகமும் செர்ந்ததனலே
தென்றலே நீயும் பிரியாதே
தேன் மலர் தூவும் நேரமிதே
என் செல்வமே நீயும் மறையாதே
தேன் மலர் தூவும் நேரமிதே
என் செல்வமே நீயும் மறையாதே

In second lyrical phrase, Susheela & T M Soundararajan (TMS) establish a great rapport. ” தியாகமும் யோகமும் செர்ந்ததனலே தென்றலே நீயும் பிரியாதே தியாகமும் யோகமும் செர்ந்ததனலே தென்றலே நீயும் பிரியாதே தேன் மலர் தூவும் நேரமிதே என் செல்வமே நீயும் மறையாதே” is a heartfelt appeal for the serenity of a peaceful end to a long, wearying journey, seguing into the lovely ” தேன் இதழ் மேலே சிந்திடும் மதுவை தேடியே வாராய் இந்நாளே” – holding the note “ad-infinitum”.

The voices of Susheela & TMS complement each other marvellously in perfect harmony. Susheela with a natural temperament in her voice takes on the enormous responsibility of carrying this timeless masterpiece on her vocal chords and TMS doesn’t handicap her (over indulgence) – one can just feel the ease of vocalism, excitement & electricity in the air.

Did GR envision this act of betrayal? May be he did…and became a silent spectator witnessing an emerging skill of Susheela’s absorption of musical score (like the ones written for the grandiose great operas) and a dravidian passion for naturalness. It was a strange relationship indeed which lasted over a period of nine years (55-64). Susheelamma was a valuable help to his music. Susheela got trained in GR’s works as it was as spontaneous and vivacious as any other composition of its period.


thaenidhzh maelae sindhidum madhuvai
thaediyae vaaraai innaalae
thaenidhzh maelae sindhidum madhuvai
thaediyae vaaraai innaalae
maan vizhiyaalae veesidum kanaiyae
maaranum maraindhaan unnaalae
ohooo ohhhhhh ohhhh ooooooo
maan vizhiyaalae veesidum kanaiyae
maaranum maraindhaan unnaalae
தேன் இதழ் மேலே சிந்திடும் மதுவை
தேடியே வாராய் இந்நாளே
தேன் இதழ் மேலே சிந்திடும் மதுவை
தேடியே வாராய் இந்நாளே
மான் விழியாலே வீசிடும் கணையே
மாறனும் மறைந்தான் உன்னாலே
ஒ ஒ ஒ ஒ ஒ ஒ ஒ…..
மான் விழியாலே வீசிடும் கணையே
மாறனும் மறைந்தான் உன்னாலே

After the most impressive, lyrically thrilling and trademark TMS’s outpouring “மான் விழியாலே வீசிடும் கணையே மாறனும் மறைந்தான் உன்னாலே” – especially in the prolonged “ஒ ஒ ஒ ஒ ஒ ஒ ஒ” (sheer sumptuousness) – Susheela glories in the opportunities for display (like Puccini’s heroine Tosca or Bizet’s Carmen), and how can one complain when the outpouring of tone is so resplendent?.


There are moments when you simply marvel at her breath control, stupefied at where she’s getting all that support to sustain those extended arched lines that GR loved and that none of her contemporaries’ have ever been able to do justice to. New-Age singers should sample this – just to experience how moving GR’s work can be when sung and acted as the composer had conceived in suitable settings. I would definitely call it a “treasure” in his compositional vault. GR conducts the proceedings with just the right balance of precision and languor.


kaavinil yaarumae thadiyae varuvaar
kanna neeyum paadaadhae
kaadhalin vaelaiyil sodhanai purivaar
kannae neeyum aadaadhae…
oooooo ooooo…
காவினில் யாருமே தேடியே வருவார்
கண்ணா நீயும் பாடாதே
காவினில் யாருமே தேடியே வருவார்
கண்ணா நீயும் பாடாதே
காதலின் வேளையில் சோதனை புரிவார்
கண்ணே நீயும் ஆடாதே
காதலின் வேளையில் சோதனை புரிவார்
கண்ணே நீயும் ஆடாதே
ஒ ஒ ஒ ஒ ஒ ஒ ஒ ஒ….

In காவினில் யாருமே தேடியே வருவார் கண்ணா நீயும் பாடாதே காவினில் யாருமே தேடியே வருவார் கண்ணா நீயும் பாடாதே – here is another opportunity to savor a voice in finest estate, able to do anything its owner asks of it. It has a special vibrancy and the lower register is in fine shape for such imprecations as “மேகத்திலே நீ மறையாதே”. Again, explode into vociferous acclaim for the prolonged “ஒ ஒ ஒ ஒ ஒ ஒ ஒ ஒ….”. Her talent, specially her voice is a wonder to behold. it has been described as creamy, tremulouus, rich, like being enveloped in warm silk, honey-like. Listening to her is like watching Michaelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel, it is an experience of joy.


Susheela made conscious efforts and moved away from established patterns, quite significant for that era. If a emerging playback singer like Susheela receives an offer with all the riches and promises, one doesn’t ignore it. It is an opportunity which paid off, for which she will remain thankful. She, is simply divine: thrilling, poised and deeply moving, managing the semitones, trills and extraordinarily agile coloratura to ornament the great, soaring musical lines of GR. Susheela’s cooler rusticity only emerges later. With astonishing alacrity, she created her own opportunity in this song. She did make a favorable impression as a versatile playback singer on GR and which won her a lasting reputation. GR’s copious compositions and Susheela’s rendering have survived the test of time.

mohana punnagai seidhidum nilavae
maegathilae nee maraiyaadhae
paagudan thaenumae kalandhidum naeram
saahasamae nee puriyaadhae
மோகன புன்னகை செய்திடும் நிலவே
மேகத்திலே நீ மறையாதே
பாகுடன் தேனுமே கலந்திடும் நேரம்
சாஹசமே நீ புரியாதே

For a listener, “Mohana Punnagai” implies an ancient song of rustic character and its accompanying celluloid movements – an exhibition of her genius, a vital art-music based on nationalist sources. Susheela’s voice supplants the percussion with its dynamic range and acquiring overriding importance as the only playback artiste in that masterpiece song. Simply every song of her in this flick is a treat, and I have difficulty picking a favorite, however, for me the standouts from this outstanding group is the one discussed above (reminds of “Je marche sur tous les chemins…” from Massenet’s Manon) – it is simply glorious and full of exuberance.


Listen to it…..once there, we hear no lyrical themes as such, only the brilliant hymn of P Susheela.


One thought on ““Mohana Punnagai Seidhidum” – Vanangamudi (1957) – Tamil Feature Film

  1. Always loved G Ramanatha Iyer-Susheelaji combination. They have collaborated to give us some immortal melodies in the 50s. Great collection and informative write-up. Kudos to the writer.

    Like

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